Saturday, August 18, 2012

Cinema Connection - Katharine Hepburn Style Inspires Modern Menswear for Fall

There is no question that one of the great icons of style is Katharine Hepburn. What few appreciate is how much of her style started on the inside, the result of an empowered upbringing from progressive parents in New England that carried into a lifelong self-confidence. She was well known throughout Hollywood as an independent woman who spoke her mind as well as a talented athlete. One only need watch Pat and Mike (1952) - reportedly one of her favorite films with partner Spencer Tracy - to see evidence of both. But it's in 1942's Woman of the Year where Kate's innate sense of style really first came to the fore. 

From her earliest days onscreen, costume designers delighted at dressing her fit 5'8" frame in elegant evening gowns. Her style really started to evolve with Kalloch for Holiday (1938) and then of course Adrian for The Philadelphia Story (1940). Woman of the Year is filled with more extraordinary gowns and dresses featuring his signature fit, draping, and detail. The black off-the-shoulder gown is particularly well known and influential today, but Kate also glides around in a longsleeve floor-length gown that is pure Adrian. The dresses in Woman of the Year still act as the gold standard for modern designers, such as Jenny Packham whose Fall runway was filled with ensembles inspired by Kate and the 1940s. 

But as many know, it is the menswear from Woman of the Year that was revolutionary. This was, after all, World War II and a time when women were starting to enter the workforce en masse. The strong suiting in the movie was so ahead of its time and the starting point for our modern career wear. 70 years later, the design has changed precious little in fashion. The costumes served as the model of inspiration for Giorgio Armani with his power suits of the 1980s and continues with other giants like Donna Karan and Miucia Prada today. This is especially true of offering pants as an option for women - virtually unheard of in the 1930s and 1940s - because Kate rebelled and led the way with her own uniform of a tailored blazer, blouse, and slacks. Now it's simply considered a classic look. And her iconic smoking jacket and pants from the film is a particularly strong influence for Fall. Even I was surprised by the sheer number of variations available this season. Of course Yves Saint Laurent was the first to be inspired by the style in the creation of his own iconic Le Smoking in the 1970s.   

Woman of the Year is one of my Style Essentials since it represents some of the most iconic costumes in film that continue to influence fashion today. It's also an example of a star who brought her own strong sense of style to the audience both onscreen and off.  Whether you now wear trousers, khakis, jeans, leggings, or even joggers as loungewear, you can trace most of that back to Katharine Hepburn. Menswear is one of the biggest trends for Fall/Winter 2012, and you can see much of that influence starts right here.

ABOVE:  Katharine Hepburn on set circa 1941 and
Giorgio Armani's modern take on Hepburn style for Fall 2012

One of the most iconic looks from Woman of the Year is her smoking jacket and slacks,
which inspired Yves Saint Laurent's own iconic Le Smoking and countless other designers

Yves Saint Laurent's Le Smoking captured by Helmut Newton (above)
and its evolution within the brand from the 1970s to the present

Ralph Lauren's smoking jacket (above) 
and Chloe's smoking jacket-inspired look both in time for Fall

Katharine Hepburn is known for suiting, whether with pants or skirts...
silk shantung suiting from Miu Miu Fall 2012 (above)

Tory Burch's tipped skirt suit is a modern take on Kate's in Woman of the Year

Strong shoulders and stripes from Rodarte's Fall 2012 runway also remind me of Kate

The timeless Hepburn uniform included a tailored jacket, blouse, and pants
and Donna Karan does her own sleek look for Fall

 The same type of look with a skirt by Donna Karan (above) and Rodarte

The influence of Kate can be seen everywhere in the Rodarte Fall 2012 collection, including gowns

Though Woman of the Year is known for suiting, it also includes an iconic off-the-shoulder gown
that inspires a lot of design including one on Jamie-Lynn Sigler at the 2012 Golden Globes

Another draped masterpiece from Adrian on Katharine
seems to be an inspiration for one from Jenny Packham for Fall

Even the patterns in fabric from Woman of the Year are influential -
its geometric window pane pattern made it into several outfits in Christian Dior's Fall collection

 Power suiting inspired by Kate - Giorgio Armani gave us THE look of the 1980s (above)
and 2012's colorful cavalcade of modern menswear on the Prada runway


Beautiful Day said...

I haven't seen any of Katherine Hepburn's movies as an adult (to be honest I didn't like her voice when I was young so didn't pay much attention) but I can see through your post just how influential her clothes were! I must give her films another go. :)

Kimberly Truhler said...

Thanks Wendy! My introduction to Katharine Hepburn was THE PHILADELPHIA STORY and I think that helped me warm to her. When you watch her, it's not like watching Grace Kelly or Audrey Hepburn. But, as you just discovered, she is someone who should be watched and admired for her various contributions. When I put together my Cinema Connection, even I was surprised by how modern she is. I'm so glad it surprised you as well and encouraged you to take another look at her films. That's marvelous!

Marline said...

A lovely study of the marvelous menswear influence. Kate IS the key menswear icon, to my mind, nevermind Marlene and her tuxedoes! Love this post to shreds and OMG, cannot believe that first image. Don't tell me they didn't track that pix! GREAT job dogging these down Kimberly...awesome! Love, Kay

Kimberly Truhler said...

Thank you Kay! It was A LOT of work to do all the research and find the ones I wanted, but so worth it. I love this post and KNEW you would love it, too. Right up your alley and could practically hear you say AMEN when you saw allllllllllll the ways that the Great Kate continues to influence our fashion. I mean, this is just this Fall's collections and not all of them either! She is a perennial inspiration...just year after year after year. Timeless style, and you wear it soooo well. This newbies now following you after BlogHer will know YOU as the Great Kay! xo

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